Sometimes one phone call can lead you to have the wildest experiences in your life. This revelation struck me while standing in ankle-deep mud in a quarry near Brisbane recently, as a $3500 car that my mates and I had built in a garage raced against a flame-belching AMG G63.
Marty and Moog from renowned YouTube channel Mighty Car Mods rang me several months ago and asked me to help them source, build, and then transport the car they were going to use in the upcoming 2019 Supercheap Auto ‘Oils’ ad shoot, which has become something of a touchstone in automotive advertising.
This wouldn’t be my first time working with these guys; I’ve actually known the boys for years and helped build their Subarute in the USA in 2016, write their book in 2017, and build their LS1 HQ Holden for the 2018 Supercheap oils ad.
Building the jacked-up, off-road-spec Subaru Liberty – nicknamed Outfap - was a fun and full-on three days at the MCM headquarters, though it is always a great time hanging out with the boys, plus Benny ‘Mechanical Stig’ Neal and Al ‘Turbo Yoda’ Butler.
The paint was barely dry on the car before Marty and I loaded it onto the MCM car trailer, and I hauled it 12 hours up the east coast to where the ad was being filmed.
Day one started early with a 6:30am call at the Supercheap Auto HQ in Lawnton. I had been told the mantra of a big-budget film shoot is “hurry up and wait”, and it proved 100 percent correct. You just find somewhere to sit yourself near your allocated vehicle (or Liberty in this case) and just wait for instruction.
And there’s no concern about not getting the message; if someone needs something to happen with a vehicle you’re responsible for, they will not hesitate to communicate that loudly enough to be heard on the moons of Jupiter, along with the fact they needed it done 15 minutes ago.
Supercheap Auto’s Reece Moger had told me there were about 80 people on the shoot, but it seemed like a cast of hundreds. Everyone was either standing around scoffing a quick breakfast or racing manically on some super-urgent job.
Production assistants, wardrobe, catering, grips, vehicle handlers, stunt co-ordinators and stuntmen, photographers, and 100 other professions were all needed to ensure the ad would be a hit.
And the intermittent rain meant it was stress-city for them, as passing showers would drop the deuce on their finely-laid plans as soon as they were ready to shoot. Thankfully the rain passed and the crew quickly made up any time that had been lost.
One of the most impressive parts of the day was watching a crew of drone operators chase the cars and bikes at close quarters. If you get a chance to check out drone racing, do it as the speed and control these guys have is unbelievable; these things flat-out deny physics!
For 2019 Reece and Josh Weier from Black Wattle Studios had come up with a killer concept and script with more storyline to it. Basically, the boys would be chasing a Supercheap employee who had been tasked with delivering a package by a spy, who is part James Bond and plenty Inspector Gadget. What’s in the package? That is all part of the fun!
Just as I was getting keen to see Rob White drift a Ferrari 360 Spyder around the inside of a massive warehouse, I got a tap on the shoulder. Part of working on a film set is being super-flexible, and so I had to race off on a three-hour drive to the Gold Coast and back to pick up a nitrous bottle.
It was needed for a gag the next day, and we still hadn’t made a grille for our car so I had to pick up mesh for that, too. No problem! I actually managed to make it back in time to watch Rob slide the open-piped Ferrari 360 around the loading dock behind the Supercheap warehouse a bunch of times; not a bad Friday at work!
Saturday wasn’t going to be such an easy task, though. Rain over the last week it turned the quarry into a slimy mud pit, which destroyed everyone’s shoes and caused havoc with the cars. After each and every take Brandon had to pressure-wash both cars down, going through over 1200 litres of water in a single day.
Al was on set for the Outfap’s scenes and he, Marty and I got the car ready for its star turn on film by doing random jobs like ratchet-strapping the nitrous bottle to the roll cage (as a gag), though we never did make a grille for it.
In the end, after thrashing madly for an hour to prep the car, our job from 7am until 6pm was to then sit around and throw rocks at each other.
Marty (below) and Moog filmed some close-ups and then handed the car to the stunt guys at about 10am, who then proceeded to thrash it around the quarry doing the dangerous chase sequences. The shoot wrapped after the sun had set with the whole set stinking like a burning freight train from the Liberty’s stock clutch giving out.
This came as no surprise to us, as our $3500 Subaru had spent several hours chasing a $200,000 supercharged V8 AMG 4x4 around a muddy quarry. The Subie did an admirable job despite making several hundred horsepower less than the big German box, so we were stoked we could drive it back on the trailer at the end of the day.
We rose pre-dawn on Monday to unload the Subaru at the semi-abandoned airport that the team had hired the whole joint for the day and, after Al and I checked the clutch was operational, we gave everyone strict instructions to take it easy with the car.
With kangaroos hopping across the abandoned runway, dew glistening on the grass as the golden sun beat down, and a thick fog hanging in the air, it was a beautiful, serene scene… until Kent Dalton from Hi-Torque Performance blasted it into submission with his five-litre Mustang V8 drift car.
Al and I then basically spent the day discussing ridiculous engine swap ideas, and whether season eight or nine of The Simpsons was the show’s high-water mark.
At 6pm we heard Bish bellowing the magic words, “That’s a wrap, guys!” across the dark airfield, marking the end of my time on the shoot.
I got to sneak a look at an early cut of the ad and I was filled with a sense of pride seeing some of my hard work blasting around the screen. Hopefully, all the fun we had comes through on the ad and everyone digs the ad!